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Detox in Korea's alpine air

August 03, 2008

1. South Korea

So what happens if China's promises of clean air for the Summer Games turn out to be just, well, so much smoke?

Some Beijing visitors may find that exposure to Olympian levels of smog and dust requires detoxing.

If so, one option is to stop in another Asian city, one that has Olympic aspirations and more breathable air: Pyeongchang, a South Korean mountain resort 100 miles east of Seoul that has twice come up short in its bid to host a Winter Games.

At nearly 2,300 feet, in the Taebaek mountain range in Gangwon province, Pyeongchang is high enough to get winter snow. But its scenic views, rich cultural heritage and recreational activities make it popular in summer too.

The region provided the backdrop for "When the Buckwheat Blossoms," the best-known short story of author Lee Hyo-seok. The Lee Hyo-seok Cultural Festival, with literary readings and street performances, is held every September in the town of Bongpyeong, where the author was born, to coincide with the blooming of the flowers.

But there's plenty to see if you can't stay until then.

Daegwallyeong, a winding mountain pass that cuts across the Taebaek mountain range, offers alluring pastoral scenes. On the eastern slope of Mt. Odae is Woljeongsa, a historic Buddhist temple.

For a final detox day, take a trip to the Boseong green-tea fields, with lush, verdant plantations in the southwest Jeolla province. The best view is at sunrise, when the air should be clear and visibility good.

You can reach Pyeonchang by catching an inter-city bus from East Seoul Bus Terminal.

-- Youkyung Lee

2. Morocco

Security forces said they foiled a terrorist plot to attack tourist hotels this summer. The security action was part of a "near-daily" struggle to root out extremist cells increasingly linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq, said the chief of the country's domestic intelligence agency.

-- Associated Press

3. Greece

About 3,000 tourists who were evacuated from hotels on the island of Rhodes because of heavy smoke from a huge forest fire were allowed to return July 26 after firefighters gained some control over the blaze. It was the latest of more than 100 wildfires to grip Greece this summer.

-- Times wires

4. Britain

"Hadrian: Empire and Conflict," new at the British Museum, assembles more than 170 objects to tell the story of the Roman emperor (AD 76-138) who built the 73-mile wall that snakes across northern England. The exhibit, which is not scheduled to travel from London, ends Oct. 26.

-- Associated Press

5. Canada

Niagara's Fury, with rumbling floors and simulated rain, snowflakes and lightning, opened on the Canadian side of the famous falls. The $7-million attraction is the showpiece of the renovated Table Rock complex of restaurants and shops.

-- Associated Press


Caution spots

The State Department recently issued warnings and alerts for these areas:

* China, to advise Americans to continue to avoid areas of Sichuan province that were most severely affected by the May 12 earthquake.

* Uzbekistan, to remind U.S. citizens to exercise caution because the potential for a terrorist attack or a localized civil disturbance still exists.

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